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Subject: Best way to create cards from an Excel template? rss

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SLThomas
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I am currently designing a Card-Based Board Game with a financial markets theme called Leverage. If you are interested you can check out the details in this Thread.

Anyway, I am currently designing the 'fields' of 100 Company Cards in excel. There is a lot of data, and while I'm not concerned about displaying the data on the card in a clear and concise way, it would be great to have an automated method of populating a set or sub-set of the cards quickly for printing. This will become increasingly important during play-testing as I tweak values and mechanics for balancing etc.

I read up on Nandeck in one of the Stickys of this sub-forum, but is there a more modern way of doing this with a GUI, preferably within Microsoft Office?
 
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Corsaire
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Nandeck has a GUI and a visual card designer where you can reference fields from a spreadsheet. Because of the native features designed to do exactly what we do for cards, it is going to be a lighter lift than torturing a mail merge in Microsoft Word referencing Excel.

I'd highly suggest trying the visual editor in Nandeck (free) so you have at least a benchmark of effort and results before taking a likely more painful dive elsewhere. Took about fifteen minutes to get my twelve year old up to speed to make a game for a school project with some 150 cards of three types connected to a Google spreadsheet.
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Micheal Keane
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It's not free & only for OSX but MultiDeck might be what you're looking for.
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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I just posted an update to my (free) inkscape extension this weekend (new users probably should start with the stable version from last year though):

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/28438456#28438456

Have no idea what more modern than nandeck means, so no idea if this is a more or less modern way or why that would even matter. What did you dislike about nandeck?

 
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JPotter
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There are several option to layout cards within Office ... all pretty miserable IMO, but if that's what you have and what you're familiar with, got to go with what you have!

Hopefully your data is entered in rows, like company records? [EDIT: I said" And assuming there are no graphical elements unique to the various cards..." here but then I learnt something new, at least in regards to Excel. See below]

1. Design the card layout as a cluster of cells on a new sheet in Excel. Reference each part of the layout back to the sheet that has your date. Make copies of the cell group and use find/replace to force the references to refer to the next row on your datasheet. EDIT: Or have a counter in one of the cells in each "card", and have the others use that as an argument to a vlookup that refers back to your data sheet.
You'll have to massage the column and row sizes to produce 8 cards per page when printed.
If you go this route, please know that changing the layout will be a bear.

2, Mail merge into Word.

3. Mail merge into Publisher; this requires scripting, but you can google for it.

4. Save your spreadsheet as a CSV file. Create an Access database to house the data. Import your CSV into it. Design a report that will be your card layout. Massage the report to produce 8 records (cards) per page.

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Dennis Thiede
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Definitely +1 to mail merge with Word. It is simple to learn, easy to tweak layout. I use it for vocabulary flashcards. What you can't do is using different graphics - you could add them later manually though.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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aesthetocyst wrote:
And assuming there are no graphical elements unique to the various cards....

There are games with no graphical elements unique to the various cards?

(I'm only half-joking. That is a rather serious limitation.)
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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Antistone wrote:
aesthetocyst wrote:
And assuming there are no graphical elements unique to the various cards....

There are games with no graphical elements unique to the various cards?

(I'm only half-joking. That is a rather serious limitation.)


Yes, many games actually. Almost every trivia-game ever made? The chance cards in Monopoly (at least when I grew up... maybe they have fancy illustrations on every card these days?).

But I understand the joke, as this was about a prototype anyway. But even a prototype can often be greatly enhanced by including some icons or colors here and there, and at a later stage invest a few minutes in adding some decorations just to make them more fun to play with.

Mail-mergers are not the right tool for the job and not something I would recommend anyone waste time on learning how to use.



 
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Koen Hendrix
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aesthetocyst wrote:
1. Design the card layout as a cluster of cells on a new sheet in Excel. Reference each part of the layout back to the sheet that has your date. Make copies of the cell group and use find/replace to force the references to refer to the next row on your datasheet.
You'll have to massage the column and row sizes to produce 8 cards per page when printed.
If you go this route, please know that changing the layout will be a bear.

This is what I used for my first prototypes.

If you use an invisible number in the top left of each card as the row reference on your data sheet, every card is effectively the same (i.e. they all have the exact same data-reading formulas, all dependent on that top-left number).

Changing layout still isn't easy, but with this method once you've changed one card you can just copy the cells from one card to the next.
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I personally have very good experience with a simple google doc for quick playtesting - it is a very easy to use "what you see it what you get" editor.

Please feel free to use my template:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FwnVfFrdAHTurkOrhxGC3Wsf...

PS: I love the idea to add the date/version to every card. Definitely something that I'll do in the future.
 
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SLThomas
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pelni wrote:






What software was used to populate these cards if you don't mind me asking?
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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sproyd wrote:
pelni wrote:






What software was used to populate these cards if you don't mind me asking?


See my first post in this thread.

Inkscape Extensions for Boardgame Development

https://github.com/lifelike/countersheetsextension

https://github.com/lifelike/countersheetsextension/wiki/Inst...

https://github.com/lifelike/countersheetsextension/wiki/Card...

Inkscape was used to draw the templates. A text editor was used to enter the card text (although most sane people would just use excel or some other spreadsheet and then export the sheet to CSV).

http://www.inkscape.org

The three different templates used for that example images are all in the examples/cards.svg file included with the download of the most recent (2.1p1) countersheetsextension zip.

https://github.com/lifelike/countersheetsextension/releases/...
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SLThomas
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pelni you are a legend mate! I am going to go down the inkscape + countersheets extension route. Will report back on how I get on...
 
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JPotter
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Antistone wrote:
aesthetocyst wrote:
And assuming there are no graphical elements unique to the various cards....

There are games with no graphical elements unique to the various cards?

(I'm only half-joking. That is a rather serious limitation.)


See Skip Bo

And Cards Against Humanity ... gulp

And Dominos ...

More seriously, designing attractive text only cards is perfectly doable, and with a little work graphical enhancements can be created or placed in Excel.

Getting pretty deep in the workarounds now, tho ...

* Goes back to work in Illustrator * whistle
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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aesthetocyst wrote:
Antistone wrote:
(I'm only half-joking. That is a rather serious limitation.)


See Skip Bo

And Cards Against Humanity ... gulp

And Dominos ...


I explicitly say that I'm half-joking, but people still want to list a handful of the rare games with text-only cards just to prove that graphics are not universally required.

...and Dominos are NOT text-only! You couldn't even get to 3 games without making a mistake.


Obviously, a few text-only card games do exist. But there's tons of powerful features used in many card games that would almost certainly involve graphics EVEN in a crude prototype, including:

Suits, colors, or similar card categories, such as used in UNO, Clue, Pandemic, and many traditional card games. (Yes, you could use words or letter codes as a substitute, but that's cumbersome, and will make playtests slower and more error-prone. You'd never even consider doing that unless you were facing a technical barrier.)

Icons for common resources or actions, such as coins in Dominion, mana and tapping in Magic: The Gathering, money, VP, etc. in Lords of Waterdeep, etc.

Matching similarities between separate cards, such as in Spot it! or SET.

Connections for cards that are laid side-by-side in a line or grid, such as in Carcassonne, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Steampunk Rally, etc.

Diagrams depicting spatial relationships, such as the alignment and background cards in Roll Player or the piece movement rules in The Duke, Navia Dratp, or For the Crown.

Illustrations are usually ornamental, in which case they can be dispensed with for an initial prototype...but sometimes they're not! In games like Dixit, Mysterium, or Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, they're an important functional element.


The odds that some random card game you know nothing about includes at least 1 functional graphical element (that you'd want even in a prototype) are pretty high, I think.
 
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JPotter
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Antistone wrote:
aesthetocyst wrote:
Antistone wrote:
(I'm only half-joking. That is a rather serious limitation.)


See Skip Bo

And Cards Against Humanity ... gulp

And Dominos ...


I explicitly say that I'm half-joking, but people still want to list a handful of the rare games with text-only cards just to prove that graphics are not universally required.

...and Dominos are NOT text-only! You couldn't even get to 3 games without making a mistake.


• •
• •
• •
——

i
ii



Goodness, it's the face of a domino.

Being limited to use of text strings IS a pain, but your understanding of the possibilities "text only" is terribly limited. Thanks to the wonders of symbol fonts, unicode, ascii, typographers replacing glyphs with all manner of hidden (and not-so-hidden) symbols ... and the ability to manipulate color and size of characters individually, text only layouts can be down right graphic.

And if that's not good enough, you can build your own symbol typeface, using your own custom symbols.

Of course, if you had that capability, you probably wouldn't be laying out cards in Excel any more



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Jeremy Lennert
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You can also shrink down your text until each character is a single pixel, and then create any shape you want!

But now you're just arguing semantics. Using text to simulate graphics may be interesting as a technical puzzle, but there's a reason we normally treat them separately.
 
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Derek H
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sproyd wrote:
I read up on Nandeck in one of the Stickys of this sub-forum, but is there a more modern way of doing this with a GUI, preferably within Microsoft Office?

I agree nanDeck does not work "within" Microsoft Office (but then neither does most software in the world); however it does work just fine with Excel.

I am also not sure what you mean by "more modern"?? Its a tool that is continually updated and well-supported by its creator.
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JPotter
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Antistone wrote:
... now you're just arguing semantics. Using text to simulate graphics may be interesting as a technical puzzle ...


Arguing semantics? No, it's taken an exchange to realize just how far apart our perspectives are, and how you understood and reacted to the phrase "... no graphical elements unique to the various cards...." and the term "text only".

By the former, I in no way meant any attempt to lay out cards in Excel would be limited to the glyphs found on a keyboard. Going beyond those glyphs is not "simulating graphics" or a "technical puzzle", it's part of basic typesetting. And how to 'go beyond the keyboard' is an essential area for anyone working with type, such as a designer trying to produce a professional prototype. Not only for the basics, such as:

• 'Proper' punctuation (“ ‘ ’ ” – — •, etc)
• Currency symbols (like a ¢ £ or ¥ )
• Properly setting equations (using × ± or ÷ for instance)
........ and exponents ( ² ³ )
........ and fractions ( ¼ ½ ¾ )
........ and degrees ( ° )
• Dipthongs and accents ( ß œ æ ˜y ñ Õ ... there's a ton of those)
• Footnotes and citations ( † ‡ § )
• And then, of course, leaving your mark a/o giving credit where it's due ( © ™ ® )

... but also for rendering basic symbols (shapes, arrows, other alphabets (Greek letters are very useful!), pips, suits, wingdings, embellishments, etc) as glyphs, so they are inline with the text, and don't have to be manually repositioned or sized every time the text is edited or reformatted. If it's a glyph in a font, it's "text only" and can be manipulated by text processes.

Like, entered into a cell in Excel and referenced to another sheet, or used in a mail merge, or entered in a database field and reported out.

The classic works on desktop typesetting are still The Mac is Not a Typewriter and its clever sequel, The PC is Not a Typewriter (which never received an updated edition ). 25yrs old, and yet to be surpassed, to my knowledge.

_______________

All that to say, that when i said "no graphical elements", I did not mean "limited to what you see on keyboard keys"; I work with type all the time, so I failed to anticipate it would be taken that way. Maybe saying "no placed image files" would have been clearer.

It would also have been wrong!

Until this morning, I didn't think you could use Excel as an image database. I knew you could place images along with other data, and sort the images, but I didn't think you could call them dynamically.

Well, you can, and do I feel silly. I've need to do this many times, and it never occurred to me how, nor did I ever come across any guidance. Here goes.

1. Place an image into a cell on 1 sheet.
2. Name that cell whatever you want, let's say "George".
3. Create another sheet.
4. Place a different image on that sheet.
5. With that placed image still selected, type "=George" in the formula bar. The image changes to the image you placed in the cell named "George" on the first sheet.
6. Go back to the first sheet, edit that image, replacing it with another image file, or copy an image from somewhere else and paste over it. Go back to the second sheet, you'll find that other image updated as well.
... because that image is just a box, whose content is a pointer to that other cell (duh.....)

It takes a couple more layers of sophistication to dynamically call images from a list into a layout, but building card layouts with placed symbols and illustrations can indeed be done. Using images with transparent backgrounds and setting the cells they are called from to "No fill" allows the images to be layered, and images to be applied as frames. And once built, elements can be updated very easily. If you've got to lay out cards in Excel, see here for next steps.
 
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SLThomas
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gamesbook wrote:
I am also not sure what you mean by "more modern"?? Its a tool that is continually updated and well-supported by its creator.


Maybe you're right. I'm admittedly inexperienced in these matters, and perhaps Nandeck requires another look and may be just what I'm looking for.

In any event I will sure to report back with my results (if by then this thread hasn't descended into a troll war about what constitutes a graphic vs a text element on a game card!)....
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Corsaire
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Here's a pretty good video of the integration between Nandeck and Excel. Watch at least 8 minutes of it or so to see the text integrated.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FAd0gOE3Rw

If you decide to go that way, you can use the header text he shows for defining the card size.

 
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JPotter
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sproyd wrote:
... I will sure to report back with my results (if by then this thread hasn't descended into a troll war about what constitutes a graphic vs a text element on a game card!)....


Good luck, Sproyd! And thanks for the thread. The comments and related thought lit a few dim bulbs uptairs and I think I finally see how to solve a longstanding need at the office, which will help a lot of people across this city.
 
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